Hypocrite much?

Without trying to sound too up myself, I’ve always agreed that drastic cuts to the country’s budget need to be taken to avoid us falling further into debt. It’s clear- as David Cameron himself analogised before his party was voted in (sort of)- it’s like your credit card bill. You pay your debt off before its too big to handle.

Recently, however, my opinion has changed. It all started with the decision to raise university tuition fees from ‘already expensive’ to ‘ridiculously overpriced’.  Then the icing on the cuts cake (a supermarket own brand sponge cake in the reduced to clear section, of course) came when the government requested that the British Council axe the language teaching assistantship scheme- which 2000 language students rely on for their compulsory year abroad. This, of couse, included myself, and while the decision on its fate is not yet confirmed, there’s not a lot of hope.

This led to me thinking irrationally spiteful thoughts about the government, intertwined with mild expletives and words like ‘rich tories’, ‘elitism’ and ‘fat cats’. But then I stopped and realised what a hypocite I was being.

It was easy to be all high and mighty and agree with drastic cuts to funding, but when it actually affected me (in what, let’s face it, is quite a minor way) my opinion suddenly changed.

I still agree with lots of the cuts, even if I don’t agree with where they all fall. But we can’t beat about the bush- we’re in a mess and we need to get out of it. We just need to deal with it in the fairest way possible, so that as much as possible, everybody, regardless of wealth and privilege,  is given a fair deal.

November 17, 2010 at 5:05 pm Leave a comment

Browne-d off

Today, we finally learnt the outcome of the dreaded Browne Report- the long awaited report on university tuition fees. We all knew that, one way or another, it would see that fees should go up. And, one way or another, that was the outcome.

Sky News was reporting this on their website earlier today, and it created a lot of responses from readers. I love reading comments from readers, especially the uninformed, prejudiced ones from who can only be described as Daily Mail readers. And indeed, the middle class was out in force once again. Most of the comments called for lower or no tuition fees for subjects perceived by them as ‘useful’ or ‘beneficial’- like medicine and engineering, while subjects considered ‘a waste of three years’ should be charged more.

She's only here because she's knackered after her 6 hour week

The problem isn’t that such degrees exist- I believe they are actually worthwhile, and I’ll discuss that later. But I believe so called ‘Mickey Mouse’ degrees only have the reputation they do because of their high uptake. Now, people who have a genuine interest in a career in television production (most graduates from which do not end up in theprofession) are forced to put up with layabout do-nothings who picked the subject because it sounded like a laugh. At sixth form or college, they were heavily encouraged to go to university, even if it wasn’t necessarily for them- leaving universities oversubscribed and struggling with funding. As far as I can see, this is the fault of the Labour government- who desperately tried to sustain their socialist image by aiming to get 50% of school leavers into university. While, of course, I agree that everyone who wants to should have the chance of studying in higher education, it is quite simply not for everyone. You only need to look at the dropout rate of some of the universities with lower reputations to prove that.

Rather than pushing everyone into university, everyone about to leave school should be encouraged to think about what is truly suitable for them. For some that will be university, others, work based training, some, further education courses. Furthermore, how do you actually define a ‘self-indulgent’ degree- as someone on the Sky News website put it?

In the 1930’s, English Literature had the same reputation that Media Studies degrees have today. It was considered un-scientific, perhaps a little away with the fairies- leading some American Professors to introduce more scientific-esque theory into their teaching, which eventually led to what studies in English are today. What most of the people who discount degrees they describe as such don’t realise that they probably wouldn’t ever be able to comprehend some of the incredibly complex ideas that are learnt about.

At risk of speaking with similar Daily Mail fervour, I reckon what needs to be done is not put tuition fees up, rather bring university numbers down by weeding out the time wasters- that’ll make the system fairer.

October 12, 2010 at 11:15 pm 1 comment

Raoul Moat- stranger than fiction

Let’s face it, Raoul Moat is a pretty exotic name for someone that looks like this

"Whatchoo lookin' at"

I mean, he looks more like a Jim Smith doesn’t he? He could have been named Jacquez Valesquez and it wouldn’t have been more surreal.

For many, that was the whole thing about this case- it was just totally bizarre from start to finish. A psychopathic nutter, just out of jail for ABH, shoots his former girlfriend and kills her new boyfriend, then decides on a snap vendetta against the police and shoots an officer. He goes on the run and evidence is found in a sleepy northumbrian backwater, which soon becomes the centre of attention for the world’s media. In amongst the evidence are long, ranting letters to the police, of up to forty pages long and even a recorded message on a dictafone threatening to kill a member of the public for every news report on him he considers ‘false’. Having been utterly incapable of finding him for days, he turns up, out of the blue, wandering through that very same backwater before entering into a six hour stand off with police that runs into the early hours of the morning- during which ex-footballer Paul Gascoine, of all people, turns up like the drunk at the party claiming to be his friend and asking to see him. His legacy is even weirder- 18,000 Facebook users have joined a memorial page, with some calling him a ‘legend’ (Uh uh… I’m sorry, WHAT??).

It sounds like something from a crime novel, or an action movie. And of course the news channels loved it- especially Sky News, that delighted us once again in reporting innaccurate information from the unverified sources they’d been hanging around like vultures all night (all part of the fun, I suppose). At 1.56 the intimidatingly self-assured Kay Burley told us she’d “put those levels up for you”- just in case we hadn’t heard Moat’s gunshot loud enough. What a service you provide, Kay.

I’ll finish on a lighter note, with two more surreal aspects of the case.

Firstly, what do you get when you cross…

Brian Conley, and...

... Bradley Walsh?

Yes, it's Northumbria Police's Detective Chief Superintendant Adamson.

And what do you get when you cross…

Alice, off The Vicar of Dibley...

... and Dennis the Menace's mum?

Acting Chief Constable, Sue Sim.

July 13, 2010 at 10:01 pm Leave a comment

I’m a fairly moderate Facebook user, LOL jk I’m actually addicted

I actually don’t know what’s so great about Facebook. But that doesn’t stop me spending hours on it.

Even after writing that first sentence, I rushed back to the site to get the link to a friend’s blog to see if he’d updated it. He hadn’t.

I refused to join Facebook until I’d finished my A-levels- others had been on it for ages but I’d heard stories about people spending too much time on Facebook then failing their degree or getting sacked or getting ill. Nevertheless, I was afraid of losing contact with people. But it must be said that I spent most of my time playing a game that was – on retrospect- completely pointless (it involved unravelling palindromes, and me and a friend got very competitive).

Now, I find myself ‘checking’ Facebook several times a day, a reflex as soon as I connect to the internet. It’s normally to discover something incredibly mundane; Sarah Jones has ‘liked’ yet another ridiculous group  (‘Don’t mess with ma honeyz, they are my life, best friends forevaaa♥♥♥’ or ‘I don’t get need to get a life, LOL jk I ‘like’ at least ten of these groups each day’).

Facebook has cleverly positioned itself in the psyche of its users. It has become a veritable extension of their social lives, so much so that they must log on every day, but I believe it goes much deeper than simply seeing what friends are up to, or laughing at the hilarious photo from last Friday night.

In fact, I think it is fair to say that Facebook (for some, at least) has become an extension of their very selves- the status updates the user leaves, the photos they upload, all the information they provide- is there to define them, and each new piece of data represents a development of their character in the Facebook narrative. But it is one where the perception of their personality is heavily controlled by the user himself. For example, how should he balance the amount of photos of him and his friends at parties, with ones of him and his grandparents on holiday? More of one than the other is sure to give out a certain message about his personality, and this must be controlled to ensure maximum respect among his peers.

Incidentally, I happen to have very little trust in Facebook’s reputation with regards to privacy, so choose not to upload any photos at all, and promptly ‘detag’ myself in those of friends (there’s the explanation for any of my friends who were wondering why!) In doing so, I can’t help feeling that my ‘personality’ is somehow incomplete- there are no photos of me having a great time with friends, therefore to others, my life must seem incredibly uneventful, or at the very least I seem like someone who keeps their life unusually private. So, I try to make up for it with witty comments, like joining the ‘Bring Richard Whitely back to Countdown’ group, and putting ‘Unexpected item in the bagging area’ in my Favourite Quotations- just so people don’t think I’m totally boring.

Perhaps it’s just me, and I’m insecure or something. But tell me this, have you ever compared the amount of ‘Friends’ you have with someone close to you?

According to last month’s TIME magazine, 1 in 4 internet users now have an account which they visit regularly and as long as Facebook can maintain this emotional attachment with its users, it will continue to make a fortune- after all, more visits means more advertising revenue. In 2008, Facebook’s total revenue was estimated at $300,000,000. But is it right to make money out of people’s lives in this way?

You decide, then message me. I’m going to bed 🙂

June 16, 2010 at 12:24 am 1 comment

Is anybody there?!!

The answer to that question is, probably not.

OK, so the ‘let’s re-start the blog and make something of it’ pact I had with myself didn’t really materialise, but I promise I’ll try my best to keep it going now. And I’m kind of spurred on by the sudden blogging renaissance that’s occured, especially among some fellow first year students. After a few months at uni and an essay or two it seems we’ve all realised we can now intelligently articulate our feelings and are rushing to our keyboards to show off our new found skill.

Anyway, you’d think I’d have a bit more time on my hands now I’ve actually finished my first year at uni. What! – I hear you scream. Finished, already? It’s barely the end of spring, I know, but the uni felt it unnecessary to teach us any more after Easter so our third ‘term’ was simply one full of exams. Only, being an English student, I had only one exam and a couple of other bits to do (the envy of my sciencey, mathsy friends who had at least twenty each) so I did all that, hung around a bit and here I am, back at home- for about four months. Gosh.

It’s been about four months since my last post. Third time’s a charm…

May 31, 2010 at 3:39 pm Leave a comment

Our house, in the middle of our terrace

I’ve been back at uni for a couple of weeks now, after a month-long Christmas break. And yes, I know, my posts have been pathetically non-existent. I may have had a month off for Christmas, but that doesn’t mean they stopped piling on the work!

Anyway, two major essays, one piece of French language coursework and a bit of English reading later, I was back into the swing of things.  And at the top of the agenda was finding somewhere to live next year.

Indeed, it may be a whole nine months until the start of the next academic year, but a lot of people had already found their perfect house for the next couple of years, as far back as November. This, despite the University pleading us not to panic.

It’s hardly surprising, though, that very few chose to heed their advice, given that this year they completely underestimated how many new students were likely to meet the entrance requirements, forcing them to cram bunk beds into some single rooms in order to fulfull their accommodation guarantee.

While the University was telling us not to rush, my four new housemates and I (all girls; there is a strong possibility I will die) were ringing up landlords left right and centre to see if any property was left. Almost every house we enquired about had been snapped up. Fortunately though, after- at one point of desperation- simply wandering the streets in search of ‘To Let’ signs, we discovered a house that hadn’t been taken (and that was close to perfect).

I read somewhere recently that the Student Housing sector is massive business, making far more money than renting to your standard couple, or family. It’s regular income for the landlord, who knows that if there’s a University in the city, there will be a regular stream of students gagging to move out of Halls and into a real house.

These landlords are extra keen if they know there are students worried about a shortage of housing. Some houses were being advertised back in October; with many typical terraced houses (who needs a living room when you can replace it with another bedroom?) going for £100 per person per week or more, exclusive of bills. Admittedly, many landlords do attempt to make their houses appealing, with fancy decor and double beds, but many don’t bother.

Happily, our find is really quite underpriced, and absolutley huge. It has a very large living room, three toilets, a shower and a seperate bath and a back garden with a lawn. We may have had to pay a £400 ‘application’ fee to the estate agents (I’m not sure what we’re ‘applying’ for), but it will certainly make a change from the unhomely self-shutting firedoors and sick stained corridors of Halls.

January 31, 2010 at 12:08 am Leave a comment

Basically a great day

It was a very exciting day the other Tuesday.

After a good old moan about our accommodation provider (who shall remain nameless), they finally delivered on my fridge complaint. The back of the fridge was as cold as the freezer, and the space in the freezer was mostly taken up by ice, which seemed to invade like a horrible fungus and was impossible to fend off.

It’s a peculiar story. Basically a few days after lodging the ‘maintenance report form’, I went down to the reception to check if they’d received it (I was told a confirmation email would be sent, but I never received one). On asking the lady, she told me it’s ‘on it’s way.’ No, not the confirmation email,  but in fact a new fridge.

Of course, it was a month before it actually arrived (I was awoken one morning by the sound of two Devonian  blokes huffing and puffing their way into the kitchen) but it made us all rather happy. Because now our cucumbers don’t freeze solid, and we don’t have to defrost our mayonnaise should we wish to eat some.

To celebrate, I went to stock up on food (on salad in particular). I decided to visit the local Sainsburys, a little further away than the Iceland I usually visit, which is just round the corner. I had been quite intrigued by my flatmate, who kept returning from Sainsburys with several jars of curry sauce priced at nine pence each. And indeed my dreams of incredibly cheap food were recognised.

24p for twenty-four jaffa cakes, 19p for a bottle of vinegar (I didn’t really need it, but frankly why not at that price) and 13p for a tin of pineapple, among other things from the ‘Basics’ range. Before this turns into a shameless plug, I will of course mention that certain other supermarkets offer similar low-price ranges, but a least with Sainsburys you don’t have the guilt of supporting a corrupt corporate monster.

I was in supermarket paradise. It was sort of a treasure trove of stuff you could have as much of as you like, but with just a little incentive to stop you wasting it. And if that wasn’t enough, you get cheeky little slogans on the packages: on yoghurts, ‘A little less fruit, still a great pick’, on pasta sauce ‘Basic recipe, doesn’t cause a stir’, and the slightly alarming message on the washing powder box, ‘Cleans, no added promises.’

Sainsburys have been marketing their Basics range considerably more lately, for obvious reasons. Now people don’t have as much money as they would like, Jamie Oliver is telling us that buying a wonky carrot isn’t as bad as we first thought. Not that us scroungers-off-the-state cared anyway.

Living in a student area + a recession = good times!

December 9, 2009 at 2:42 pm 1 comment

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Welcome to Very Nearly Random

Tom is currently in his second year studying English and French at Exeter University.

Very Nearly Random was started when he was 15- when he would write about pranks to play on telesalesmen. Nowadays he writes about life as a student, student related matters, current affairs and anything else that comes into his head.

He finds writing about himself in the third person quite unnerving.